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Copyright. 1913. by THE INDEPENDENT 

Copyright. 1914. by B. W. HUEBSCH 

Printed in U. S. A. 


BEFORE the dawn of history mankind 
was engaged in the study of dreaming. 
The wise man among the ancients was 
preeminently the interpreter of dreams. The 
ability to interpret successfully or plausibly was 
the quickest road to royal favor, as Joseph and 
Daniel found it to be; failure to give satisfac- 
tion in this respect led to banishment from court 
or death. When a scholar laboriously translates 
a cuneiform tablet dug up from a Babylonian 
mound where it has lain buried for five thou- 
sand years or more, the chances are that it will 
turn out either an astrological treatise or a 
dream book. If the former, we look upon it 
with with some indulgence; if the latter with 
pure contempt. For we know that the study of 
the stars, though undertaken for selfish reasons 
and pursued in the spirit of charlatanry, led at 
length to physical science, while the study of 
dreams has proved as unprofitable as the dream^ 
ing of them. Out of astrolo^ grew astronomy. 
Out of onciromancy has grown — no thing. 

5 ~ ^ 


That at least was substantially true up to 
the beginning of the present century. Dream 
books in all languages continued to sell in cheap 
editions and the interpreters of dreams made a 
decent or, at any rate, a comfortable living out 
of the poorer classes. But the psychologist 
rarely paid attention to dreams except inci- 
dentally in his study of imagery, association and 
the speed of thought. But now a change has 
come over the spirit of the times. The subject 
of the significance of dreams, so long ignored, 
has suddenly become a matter of energetic study 
and of fiery controversy the world over. 

The cause of this revival of interest is the 
new point of view brought forward by Professor 
Bergson in the paper which is here made acces- 
sible to the English-reading public. <^This is the 
idea that we can explore the unconscious sub- 
stratum of our mentality, the storehouse of our 
memories, by means of dreams, for these mem- 
ories are by no means inert, but have, as it were, 
a life and purpose of their own, and strive to 
rise into consciousness whenever they get a 
chance, even into the semi-consciousness of a 
dream. To use Professor Bergson's striking 
metaphor, our memories are packed away under 
pressure like steam in a boiler and the dream 
is their escape valve. "^ 


That this is more than a mere metaphor has 
been proved by Professor Freud and others of 
the Vienna school, who cure cases of hysteria by 
inducing the patient to give expression to the 
secret anxieties and emotions which, unknown 
to him, have been preying upon his mind. The 
clue to these disturbing thoughts is generally ob- 
tained in dreams or similar states of relaxed 
consciousness. According to the Freudians _j aL 
dream always means sQn^c; thi"g, ^\ }t 1^^.^^ ;^l2gj' 
it appears to mean . It is symbolic and ex- 
presses desires or fears which we refuse ordi- 
narily to admit to consciousness, either because 
they are painful or because they are repugnant 
to our moral nature. A watchman is stationed at 
the gate of consciousness to keep them back, but 
sometimes these unwelcome intruders slip past 
him in disguise. In the hands of fanatical 
Freudians this theory has developed the wildest 
extravagancies, and the voluminous literature of 
psycho-analysis contains much that seems to the 
layman quite as absurd as the stuff which fills 
the twenty-five cent dream book. 

It is impossible to believe that the subcon- 
sciousness of every one of us contains nothing 
but the foul and monstrous specimens which they 
dredge up from the mental depths of their 
neuropathic patients and exhibit with such pride. 


Bergson's view seems to me truer as it is cer- 
tainly more agreeable, that we keep stored away 
somewhere all our memories, the good as well 
as the evil, the pleasant together with the un- 
pleasant. There may be nightmares down cel- 
lar, as we thought as a child, but even in those 
days we knew how to dodge them when we went 
after apples; that is, take down a light and slam 
the door quickly on coming up. 

Maeterlinck, too, knew this trick of our 
childhood. When in the Palace of Night, scene 
of his fairy play, the redoubtable Tyltyl unlocks 
the cage where are confined the nightmares and 
all other evil imaginings; he shuts the door in 
time to keep them in and then opens another 
revealing a lovely garden full of blue birds, 
which, though they fade and die when brought 
into the light of common day, yet encour- 
age him to continue his search for the Blue 
Bird that never fades, but lives everlastingly. 
The new science of dreams is giving a deeper sig- 
nificance to the trite wish of "Good night and 
pleasant dreams 1" It means sweet sanity and 
mental health, pure thoughts and good will to all 

Professor Bergson's theory of dreaming here 
set forth in untechnical language, fits into 
a particular niche in his general system of philos- 


ophy as well as does his little book on Laughter, 
With the main features of his philosophy the 
English-reading public is better acquainted than 
with any other contemporary system, for his 
books have sold even more rapidly here than in 
France. When Professor Bergson visited the 
United States two years ago the lecture-rooms 
of Columbia University, like those of the Col- 
lege de France, were packed to the doors and 
the effect of his message was enhanced by his 
eloquence of delivery and charm of personality. 
The p ragmatic character of his philosophy ap- 
peals to the genius of the American people as 
is shown by the influence of the teaching of 
William James and John Dewey, whose point 
of view in this respect resembles Bergson's. 

During the present generation chemistry and 
biology have passed from the descriptive to the 
creative stage. Man is becoming the over- 
lord of the mineral, vegetable and animal king- 
doms. He is learning to make gems and per- 
furqes, drugs and foods, to suit his tastes, in- 
stead of depending upon the chance bounty of 
nature. He is beginning consciously to adapt 
means to ends and to plan for the future even in 
the field of politics. He has opened up the 
atom and finds in it a microcosm more complex 
than the solar system. He beholds the elements 



melting with fervent heat and he turns their 
rays to the healing of his sores. He drives the 
lightning through the air and with the product 
feeds his crops. He makes the desert to blos- 
som as the rose and out of the sea he draws 
forth dry land. He treats the earth as his 
habitation, remodeling it in accordance with his 
ever-varying needs and increasing ambitions. 

This modem man, planning, contriving and 
making, finds Paley's watch as little to his mind 
as Lucretius's blind flow of atoms. A universe 
wound up once for all and doing nothing there- 
after but mark time is as incomprehensible to 
him as a universe that never had a mind of its 
own and knows no difference between past and 
future. The idea of eternal recurrence does not 
frighten him as it did Nietzsche, for he feels it 
to be impossible. The mechanistic interpreta- 
tion of natural phenomena developed during the 
last century he accepts at its full value, and 
would extend experimentally as far as it will 
go, for he finds it not invalid but inadequate. 

To minds of this temperament it is no won- 
der that Bergson's Creative Evolution came with 
the force of an inspiration. Men felt themselves 
akin to this upward impulse, this elan vital, 
which, struggling throughout the ages with the 
intractableness of inert matter, yet finally in 


some way or other forces it to its will, and ever 
strives toward the increase of vitality, mentality, 

Bergson has been reluctant to commit him- 
self on the question of immortality, but he of 
late has become quite convinced of it. He even 
goes so far as to think it possible that we may 
find experimental evidence of personal persist- 
ence after death. This at least we might infer 
from his recent acceptance of the presidency of 
the British Society for Psychical Research. In 
his opening address before the Society, May 28, 
19 13, he discussed the question of telepathy and 
in that connection he explained his theory of the 
relation of mind and brain in the following 
language, I quote from the report in the Lon- 
don Times: 

The ro/e of the brain is to bring back the remembrance of an 
action, to prolong the remembrance in movements. If one could 
see all that takes place in the interior of the brain, one would 
find that that which takes place there corresponds to a small part 
only of the life of the mind. The brain simply extracts from the 
life of the mind that which is capable of representation in move- 
ment. The cerebral life is to the mental life what the move- 
ments of the baton of a conductor are to the Symphony. 

The brain, then, is that which allows the mind to adjust itself 
exactly to circumstances. It is the organ of attention to life. 
Should it become deranged, however slightly, the mind is no 
longer fitted to the circumstances; it wanders, dreams. Many 
forms of mental alienation are nothing else. But from this it re- 
sults that one of the rv/es of the brain is to limit the vision of the 


mind, to render its action more efficacious. This is what we ob- 
serve in regard to the memory, where the role of the brain is to 
mask the useless part of our past in order to allow only the use- 
ful remembrances to appear. Certain useless recollections, or 
dream remembrances, manage nevertheless to appear also, and to 
form a vague fringe around the distinct recollections. It would 
not be at all surprising if perceptions of the organs of our senses, 
useful perceptions, were the result of a selection or of a canaliza- 
tion worked by the organs of our senses in the interest of our 
action, but that there should yet be around those perceptions a 
fringe of vague perceptions, capable of becoming more distinct 
in extraordinary, abnormal cases. Those would be precisely the 
cases with which psychical research would deal. 

This conception of mental action forms, as 
will be seen, the foundation of the theory of 
dreams which Professor Bergson first presented 
in a lecture before the Institut psychologique, 
March 26, 1901. It was published in the Revue 
scientifique of June 8, 1901. An English trans- 
lation, revised by the author and printed in The 
Independent of October 23 and 30, 19 13, here 
appears for the first time in book form. 

In this essay Professor Bergson made sev- 
eral contributions to our knowledge of dreams. 
He showed, in the first place, that dreaming is 
not so unlike the ordinary process of perception 
as had been hitherto supposed. Both use sense 
impressions as crude material to be molded and 
defined by the aid of memory images. Here, 
too, he set forth the idea, which he, so far as 


I know, was the first to formulate, that g|e^p is 
a state of disintere stedness, a theory which has 
since been adopted by several psychologists. In 
this address, also, was brought into consideration 
for the first time the idea that the self may go 
through different degrees of tension — a theory 
referred to in his Matter and Memory. 

Its chief interest for the general reader will, 
however, lie in the explanation it gives him of 
the cause of some of his familiar dreams. He 
may by practice become the interpreter of his 
own visions and so come to an understanding of 
the vagaries of that mysterious and inseparable 
companion, his dream-self. 

Edwin E. Slosson. 

New York Cmr, 
February io, 1914. 


THE subject which I have to discuss 
here is so complex, it raises so many 
questions of all kinds, difficult, ob- 
scure, some psychological, others physi- 
ological and metaphysical; in order to be 
treated in a complete manner it requires 
such a long development — and we have so 
little space, that I shall ask your permission 
to dispense with all preamble, to set aside 
unessentials, and to go at once to the heart 
of the question. 

A dream is this. I perceive objects and 
there is nothing there. I see men; I seem 
to speak to them and I hear what they an- 
swer; there is no one there and I have not 
spoken. It is all as if real things and real 
persons were there, then on waking all has 
disappeared, both persons and things. How 
does this happen? 

But, first, is it true that there is nothing 
there? I mean, is there not presented a 



certain sense material to our eyes, to our 
ears, to our touch, etc., during sleep as well 
as during waking? 

Close the eyes and look attentively at 
what goes on in the field of our vision- 
Many persons questioned on this point 
would say that nothing goes on, that they 
see nothing. No wonder at this, for a cer- 
tain amount of practise is necessary to be 
able to observe oneself satisfactorily. But 
just give the requisite effort of attention, 
and you will distinguish, little by little, 
many things. First, in general, a black 
background. Upon this black background 
occasionally brilliant points which come 
and go, rising and descending, slowly and 
sedately. More often, spots of many colors, 
sometimes very dull, sometimes, on the con- 
trary, with certain people, so brilliant that 
reality cannot compare with it. These 
spots spread and shrink, changing form and 
color, constantly displacing one another. 
Sometimes the change is slow and gradual, 
sometimes again it is a whirlwind of ver- 
tiginous rapidity. Whence comes all this 
phantasmagoria? The physiologists and 


the psychologists have studied this play of 
colors. "Ocular spectra," "colored spots," 
"phosphenes," such are the names that they 
have given to the phenomenon. They ex- 
plain it either by the slight modifications 
which occur ceaselessly in the retinal cir- 
culation, or by the pressure that the closed 
lid exerts upon the eyeball, causing a me- 
chanical excitation of the optic nerve. But 
the explanation of the phenomenon and 
the name that is given to it matters little. 
It occurs universally and it constitutes — I 
may say at once — the principal material of_ 
which we shape our dreams, "such s tuff as 
dream s are made on." "" 

Thirty or forty years ago, M. Alfred 
Maury and, about the same time, M. 
d'Hervey, of St. Denis, had observed that 
at the moment of falling asleep these col- 
ored spots and moving forms consolidate, 
fix themselves, take on definite outlines, 
the outlines of the objects and of the per- 
sons which people our dreams. But this 
is an observation to be accepted with cau- 
tion, since it emanates from psychologists 
already half asleep. More recently an 


American psychologist, Professor Ladd, of 
Yale, has devised a more rigorous method, 
but of difficult application, because it re- 
quires a sort of training. It consists in 
acquiring the habit on awakening in the 
morning of keeping the eyes closed and re- 
taining for some minutes the dream that 
is fading from the field of vision and soon 
would doubtless have faded from that of 
memory. Then one sees the figures and 
objects of the dream melt away little by 
little into phosphenes, identifying them- 
selves with the colored spots that the eye 
really perceives when the lids are closed. 
One reads, for example, a newspaper; 
that is the dream. One awakens and there 
remains of the newspaper, whose definite 
outlines are erased, only a white spot 
with black marks here and there; that is 
the reality. Or our dream takes us upon 
the open sea — round about us the ocean 
spreads its waves of yellowish gray with 
here and there a crown of white foam. 
On awakening, it is all lost in a great spot, 
half yellow and half gray, sown with brill- 
iant points. The spot was there, the brill- 


iant points were there. There was really 
presented to our perceptions, in sleep, a 
visual dust, and it was this dust which 
served for the fabrication of our dreams. 

Will this alone suffice? Still consider- 
ing the sensation of sight, we ought to add 
to these visual sensations which we may 
call internal all those which continue to 
come to us from an external source. The 
eyes, when closed, still distinguish light 
from shade, and even, to a certain extent, 
different lights from one another. These 
sensations of light, emanating from with- 
out, are at the bottom of many of our 
dreams. A candle abruptly lighted in the 
room will, for example, suggest to the 
sleeper, if his slumber is not too deep, a 
dream dominated by the image of fire, the 
idea of a burning building. Permit me to 
cite to you two observations of M. Tissie 
on this subject: 

"B Leon dreams that the theater 

of Alexandria is on fire; the flame lights up 
the whole place. All of a sudden he finds 
himself transported to the midst of the 


fountain in the public square; a line of 
fire runs along the chains which connect 
the great posts placed around the margin. 
Then he finds himself in Paris at the ex- 
position, which is on fire. He takes part 
in terrible scenes, etc. He wakes with a 
start; his eyes catch the rays of light pro- 
jected by the dark lantern which the night 
nurse flashes toward his bed in passing. 

M Bertrand dreams that he is in the 

marine infantry where he formerly served. 
He goes to Fort-de-France, to Toulon, to 
Loriet, to Crimea, to Constantinople. He 
sees lightning, he hears thunder, he takes 
part in a combat in which he sees fire leap 
from the mouths of cannon. He wakes 
with a start. Like B., he was wakened by 
a flash of light projected from the dark 
lantern of the night nurse." Such are often 
the dreams provoked by a bright and sud- 
den light. 

Very different are those which are sug- 
gested by a mild and continuous light like 
that of the moon. A. Krauss tells how one 
day on awakening he perceived that he was 
extending his arm toward what in his 


dream appeared to him to be the image 
of a young girl. Little by little this image 
melted into that of the full moon which 
darted its rays upon him. It is a curious 
thing that one might cite other examples 
of dreams where the rays of the moon, ca- 
ressing the eyes of the sleeper, evoked be- 
fore him virginal apparitions. May we 
not suppose that such might have been the 
origin in antiquity of the fable of En- 
dymion — Endymion the shepherd, lapped 
in perpetual slumber, for whom the god- 
dess Selene, that is, the moon, is smitten 
with love while he sleeps? 

I have spoken of visual sensations. They 
are the principal ones. But the auditory 
scn satio njjri everth elcss p lay a role . First, 
the ear has also its internal sensations, 
sensations of buzzing, of tinkling, of whist- 
ling, difficult to isolate and to perceive 
while awake, but which are clearly distin- 
guished in sleep. Besides that we continue, 
when once asleep, to hear external sounds. 
The creaking of furniture, the crackling of 
the fire, the rain beating against the win- 
dow, the wind playing its chromatic scale 


in the chimney, such are the sounds which 
come to the ear of the sleeper and which 
the dream converts, according to circum- 
stances, into conversation, singing, cries, 
music, etc. Scissors were struck against 
the tongs in the ears of Alfred Maury 
while he slept. Immediately he dreamt 
that he heard the tocsin and took part in 
the events of June, 1848. Such observa- 
tions and experiences are numerous. But 
let us hasten to say that sounds do not play 
in our dreams so important a role as colors. 
Our dreams arg^aboye jlj, yilsualj and even 
more visual than we think. To whom has 
it not happened — as M. Max Simon has 
remarked — to talk in a dream with a cer- 
tain person, to dream a whole conversa- 
tion, and then, all of a sudden, a singular 
phenomenon strikes the attention of the 
dreamer. He perceives that he does not 
speak, that he has not spoken, that his in- 
terlocutor has not uttered a single word, 
that it was a simple exchange of thought 
between them, a very clear conversation, 
in which, nevertheless, nothing has been 
heard. The phenomenon is easily enough 


explained. It is in general necessary for 
us to hear sounds in a dream. From noth- 
ing we can make nothing. And when we 
are not provided with sonorous material, 
a dream would find it hard to manufacture 

There is much more to say about the 
sensations of touch than about those of 
hearing, but I must hasten. We could talk 
for hours about the singular phenomena 
which result from the confused sensations 
of touch during sleep. These sensations, 
mingling with the images which occupy 
our visual field, modify them or arrange 
them in their own way. Often in the midst 
of the night the contact of our body with 
its light clothing makes itself felt all at 
once and reminds us that we are lightly 
clothed. Then, if our dream is at the mo- 
ment taking us through the street, it is in 
this simple attire that we present ourselves 
to the gaze of the passers-by, without their 
appearing to be astonished by it. We are 
ourselves astonished in the dream, b ut tha t 
never appears to astonish^ other j^eo^le. I 
cite this dream because it is frequent. 


There is another which many of us must 
have experienced. It consists of feeling 
oneself flying through the air or floating in 
space. Once having had this dream, one 
may be quite sure that it will reappear; 
and every time that it recurs the dreamer 
reasons in this way: "I have had before 
now in a dream the illusion of flying or 
floating, but this time it is the real thing. 
It has certainly proved to me that we may 
free ourselves from the law of gravita- 
tion." Now, if you wake abruptly from 
this dream, you can analyze it without dif- 
ficulty, if you undertake it immediately. 
You will see that you feel very clearly that 
your feet are not touching the earth. And, 
nevertheless, not believing yourself asleep, 
you have lost sight of the fact that you 
are lying down. Therefore, since you are 
not lying down and yet your feet do not 
feel the resistance of the ground, the con- 
clusion is natural that you are floating in 
space. Notice this also: when levitation 
accompanies the flight, it is on one side 
only that you make an effort to fly. And 
if you woke at that moment you would find 


that this side is the one on which you are 
lying, and that the sensation of effort for 
flight coincides with the real sensation 
given you by the pressure of your body 
against the bed. This sensation of pres- 
sure, dissociated from its cause, becomes a 
pure and simple sensation of effort and, 
joined to the illusion of floating in space, is 
sufficient to produce the dream. 

It is interesting to see that these sensa- 
tions of pressure, mounting, so to speak, 
to the level of our visual field and taking 
advantage of the luminous dust which fills 
it, eff'ect its transformation into forms and 
colors. M. Max Simon tells of having 
a strange and somewhat painful dream. 
He dreamt that he was confronted by 
two piles of golden coins, side by side and 
of unequal height, which for some reason 
or other he had to equalize. But he could 
not accomplish it. This produced a feel- 
ing of extreme anguish. This feeling, 
growing moment by moment, finally awak- 
ened him. He then perceived that one 
of his legs was caught by the folds of 
the bedclothes in such a way that his two 


feet were on different levels and it was im- 
possible for him to bring them together. 
From this the sensation of inequality, 
making an irruption into the visual field 
and there encountering (such at least is the 
hypothesis which I propose) one or more 
yellow spots, expressed itself visually by 
the inequality of the two piles of gold 
pieces. There is, then, immanent in the 
tactile sensations during sleep, a tendency 
to visualize themselves and enter in this 
form into the dream. 

More important still than the tactile 
sensations, properly speaking, are the sen- 
sations which pertain to what is sometimes 
called internal touch, deep-seated sensa- 
tions emanating from all points of the 
organism and, more particularly, from the 
viscera. One cannot imagine the degree 
of sharpness, of acuity, which may be ob- 
tained during sleep by these interior sensa- 
tions. They doubtless already exist as well 
during waking. But we are then dis- 
tracted by practical action. We live ou t- 
side of ours^lyes. But sleep makes us re- 
tire into ourselves. It happens frequently 


that persons subject to laryngitis, amygda- 
litis, etc., dream that they are attacked by 
their affection and experience a disagree- 
able tingling on the side of their throat. 
When awakened, they feel nothing more, 
and believe it an illusion; but a few hours 
later the illusion becomes a reality. There 
are cited maladies and grave accidents, at- 
tacks of epilepsy, cardiac affections, etc., 
which have been foreseen and,, as it were, 
prophesied in dreams. We need not be 
astonished, then, that philosophers like 
Schopenhauer have seen in the dream a re- 
verberation, in the heart of consciousness, 
of perturbations emanating from the sym- 
pathetic nervous system; and that psy- 
chologists like Schemer have attributed to 
each of our organs the power of provoking 
a well-determined kind of dream which 
represents it, as it were, symbolically; and 
finally that physicians like Artigues have 
written treatises on the semeiological value 
of dreams, that is to say, the method of 
making use of dreams for the diagnosis 
of certain maladies. More recently, M. 
Tissie, of whom we have just spoken, has 




shown how specific dreams are connected 
with affections of the digestive, respiratory, 
and circulatory apparatus. 

I will summarize what I have just been 
saying. When we are sleeping naturally, 
it is not necessary to believe, as has often 
been supposed, that our senses are closed 
to external sensations. Our senses continue 
to be active. They act, it is true, with less 
precision, but in compensation they em- 
brace a host of "subjective" impressions 
which pass unperceived when we are 
awake — for then we live in a world of 
perceptions common to all men — and 
which reappear in sleep, when we live 
only for ourselves. Thus our faculty of 
sense perception, far from being narrowed 
during sleep at all points, is on the con- 
trary extended, at least in certain directions, 
in its field of operations. It is true that it 
often loses in energy, in tension, what it 
gains in extension. It brings to us only 
confused impressions. These impressions 
are the materials of our dreams. But they 
are only the materials, they do not suffice 
to produce them. 


They do not suffice to produce them, be- 
cause they are vague and indeterminate. 
To speak only of those that play the prin- 
cipal role, the changing colors and forms, 
which deploy before us when our eyes are 
closed, never have well-defined contours. 
Here are black lines upon a white back- 
ground. They may represent to the 
dreamer the page of a book, or the facade 
of a new house with dark blinds, or any 
number of other things. Who will choose? 
What is the form that will imprint its 
decision upon the indecision of this ma- 
terial? This form is our memory. 

Let us note first that the dream in gen- 
eral creates nothing. Doubtless there may 
be cited some examples of artistic, literary 
and scientific production in dreams. I will 
recall only the well-known anecdote told 
of Tartini, a violinist-composer of the eigh- 
teenth century. As he was trying to compose 
a sonata and the muse remained recalcitrant, 
he went to sleep and he saw in a dream 
the devil, who seized his violin and played 
with master hand the desired sonata. Tar- 
tini wrote it out from memory when he 


woke. It has come to us under the name 
of "The Devil's Sonata." But it is very 
difficult, in regard to such old cases, to 
distinguish between history and legend. 
We should have auto-observations of cer- 
tain authenticity. Now I have not been 
able to find anything more than that of the 
contemporary English novelist, Stevenson. 
In a very curious essay entitled "A Chap- 
ter on Dreams," this author, who is en- 
dowed with a rare talent for analysis, 
explains to us how the most original of 
his stories have been composed or at least 
sketched in dreams. But read the chap- 
ter carefully. You will see that at a cer- 
tain time in his life Stevenson had come 
to be in an habitual psychical state where 
it was very hard for him to say whether 
he was sleeping or waking. That appears 
to me to be the truth. When the mind 
creates, I would say when it is capable of 
giving the effort of organization and syn- 
thesis which is necessary to triumph over 
a certain difficulty, to solve a problem, to 
produce a living work of the imagination, 
we are not really asleep, or at least that 


part of ourselves which labors is not the 
same as that which sleeps. We cannot 
say, then, that it is a dream. In sleep, 
properly speaking, in sleep which absorbs 
our whole personality, it^is memories and 
ojil^r_memories which w eave the web of 
o ur dream s. "But oTterP we do not rec- 
ognize them. They may be very old 
memories, forgotten during waking hours, 
drawn from the most obscure depths of our 
past; they may be, often are, memories of 
objects that we have perceived distract- 
edly, almost unconsciously, while awake. 
Or they may be fragments of broken mem- 
ories which have been picked up here and 
there and mingled by chance, composing 
an incoherent and unrecognizable whole. 
Before these bizarre assemblages of images 
which present no plausible significance, 
our intelligence (which is far from sur- 
rendering the reasoning faculty during 
sleep, as has been asserted) seeks an ex- 
planation, tries to fill the lacunae. It fills 
them by calling up other memories which, 
presenting themselves often with the same 
deformations and the same incoherences as 


the preceding, demand in their turn a new 
explanation, and so on indefinitely. But 
I do not insist upon this point for the mo- 
ment. It is sufficient for me to say, in 
order to answer the question which I have 
propounded, that the formative power of 
the materials furnished to the dream by 
the different senses, the power which con- 
verts into precise, determined objects the 
vague and indistinct sensations that the 
dreamer receives from his eyes, his ears, 
and the whole surface and interior of his 
body, is the memory. 

Memory! In a waking state we have 
indeed memories which appear and disap- 
pear, occupying our mind in turn. But 
they are always memories which are close- 
ly connected with our present situation, 
our present occupation, our present action. 
I recall at this moment the book of M. 
d'Hervey on dreams; that is because I am 
discussing the subject of dreams and this 
act orients in a certain particular direc- 
tion the activity of my memory. The 
memories that we evoke while waking, 
however distant they may at first appear to 


be from the present action, are always con- 
nected with it in some way. What is the 
role of memory in an animal? It is to 
recall to him, in any circumstance, the 

a dvantageous o r injurious consequences 
which ha ve formerly arisen in analogous 
circumstanceSj^ [n order to instruct him 
as to what he ought tp_do. In man mem- 
ory is doubtless less the slave of action, 
but still it sticks to it. Our memories, at 
any given moment, form a solid whole, a 
pyramid, so to speak, whose point is in- 
serted precisely into our present action. 
But behind the memories which are con- 
cerned in our occupations and are revealed 
by means of it, there are others, thousands 
of others, stored below the scene illumi- 
/^nated by consciousness. Yes, I believe in- 
J deed that a ll our past life is there, pre- 
\ served even to the most infinitesimal de- 
tails, and that we forget nothing, and that 
all that we have felt, perceived, thought, 

V willed, from the first awakening of our 
consciousness, survives indestructibly. But 
the memories which are preserved in these 
obscure depths are there in the state of 


invisible phantoms. They aspire, perhaps, 
to the light, but they do not even try to 
rise to it; they know that it is impossible 
and that I, as a living and acting being, 
have something else to do than to occupy 
myself with them. But suppose that, at 
a given moment, I become disinterested 
in the present situation, in the present ac- 
tion — in short, in all which previously has 
fixed and guided my memory; suppose, in 
other words, that I am asleep. Then these 
memories, perceiving that I have taken 
away the obstacle, have raised the trapdoor 
which has kept them beneath the floor of 
consciousness, arise from the depths; they 
rise, they move, they perform in the night 
of unconsciousness a great dance macabre. 
They rush together to the door which has 
been left ajar. They all want to get 
through. But they cannot; there are too 
many of them. From the multitudes which 
arc called, which will be chosen? It is not 
hard to say. Formerly, when I was awake, 
the memories which forced their way were 
those which could involve claims of rela- 
tionship with the present situation, with 


what I saw and heard around me. Now 
it is more vague images which occupy my 
sight, more indecisive sounds which affect 
my ear, more indistinct touches which are 
distributed over the surface of my body, 
but there are also the more numerous sen- 
sations which arise from the deepest parts 
of the organism. So, then, among the 
phantom memories which aspire to fill 
themselves with color, with sonority, in 
short with materiality, the only ones that 
succeed are those which can assimilate 
themselves with the color-dust that we per- 
ceive, the external and internal sensations 
that we catch, etc., and which, besides, re- 
spond to the affective tone of our general 
sensibility.* When this union is effected 
between the memory and the sensation, we 
have a dream. 

In a poetic page of the Enneades, the 

•Author's note (1913). This would be the place where es- 
pecially will intervene those "repressed desires" which Freud 
and certain other psychologists, especially in America, have 
studied with such penetration and ingenuity. (See in particular 
the recent volumes of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, pub- 
lished in Boston by Dr. Morton Prince. ) When the above ad- 
dress was delivered (1901) the work of Freud on dreams (/)/> 
Traumdeutung) liad been already published, but "psycho-analy- 
sis" was far from having the development that it has to-day. 
(H. B.) 


philosopher Plotinus, interpreter and con- 
tinuator of Plato, explains to us how men 
come to life. Nature, he says, sketches 
the living bodies, but sketches them only. 
Left to her own forces she can never com- 
plete the task. On the other hand, souls 
inhabit the world of Ideas. Incapable 
in themselves of acting, not even think- 
ing of action, they float beyond space 
and beyond time. But, among all the 
bodies, there are some which specially re- 
spond by their form to the aspirations of 
some particular souls; and among these 
souls there are those which recognize 
themselves in some particular body. The 
body, which does not come altogether via- 
ble from the hand of nature, rises toward 
the soul which might give it complete 
life; and the soul, looking upon the body 
and believing that it perceives its own 
image as in a mirror, and attracted, fas- 
cinated by the image, lets itself fall. It 
falls, and this fall is life. I may com- 
pare to these detached souls the mem- 
ories plunged in the obscurity of the 
unconscious. On the other hand, our noc- 


turnal sensations resemble these incomplete 
bodies. The sensation is warm, colored, 
vibrant and almost living, but vague. The 
memory is complete, but airy and lifeless. 
The sensation wishes to find a form on 
which to mold the vagueness of its con- 
tours. The memory would obtain matter 
to fill it, to ballast it, in short to realize it. 
They are drawn toward each other; and 
the phantom memory, incarnated in the 
sensation which brings to it flesh and blood, 
becomes a being with a life of its own, a 

The birth of a dream is then no mystery. 
It resembles the birth of all our percep- 
tions. T he mechan i sm of the dream is the 
same, in general, as that of norma l pe r- 
ce ption. When we perceive a real ob- 
ject, what we actually see — the sensible 
matter of our perception — is very little in 
comparison with what our memory adds 
to it. When you read a book, when you 
look through your newspaper, do you sup- 
pose that all the printed letters really come 
into your consciousness? In that case the 
whole day would hardly be long enough 


for you to read a paper. The truth is that 
you see in each word and even in each 
member of a phrase only some letters 
or even some characteristic marks, just 
enough to permit you to divine the rest. 
All of the rest, that you think you see, 
you really give yourself as an hallucina- 
tion. There are numerous and decisive 
experiments which leave no doubt on this 
point. I v^^ill cite only those of Gold- 
scheider and Miiller. These experiment- 
ers w^rote or printed some formulas in 
common use, "Positively no admission;" 
"Preface to the fourth edition," etc. But 
they took care to w^rite the v^ords incor- 
rectly, changing and, above all, omitting 
letters. These sentences were exposed in 
a darkened room. The person who served 
as the subject of the experiment was placed 
before them and did not know, of course, 
what had been written. Then the inscrip- 
tion was illuminated by the electric light 
for a very short time, too short for the ob- 
server to be able to perceive really all the 
letters. They began by determining ex- 
perimentally the time necessary for seeing 


one letter of the alphabet. It was then 
easy to arrange it so that the observer 
could not perceive more than eight or ten 
letters, for example, of the thirty or forty 
letters composing the formula. Usually, 
however, he read the entire phrase with- 
out difficulty. But that is not for us the 
most instructive point of this experiment. 
If the observer is asked what are the 
letters that he is sure of having seen, these 
may be, of course, the letters really writ- 
ten, but there may be also absent letters, 
either letters that we replaced by others 
or that have simply been omitted. / Thus 
an observer will see quite distinctly in full 
light a letter which does not exist, if this 
letter, on account of the general sense, 
ought to enter into the phrase./ The char- 
acters which have really affected the eye 
have been utilized only to serve as an in- 
dication to the unconscious memory of the 
observer. This memory, discovering the 
appropriate remembrance, i.e., finding the 
formula to which these characters give a 
start toward realization, projects the re- 
membrance externally in an hallucinatory 


OJ^^o-NA/^jOsjsJi 't>J^V;ivjc>^ ^^NAx>.*Jo-'^-** . ^ ^ 

40 DREAMS ^ 

form. It is this remembrance, and not the 
words themselves, that the observer has 
seen. It is thus demonstrated that rapid 
reading is in great part a work of divina- 
tion, but not of abstract divination. (It is 
an exteraaljzation of memories which take 
advantage, to a certain extent, of the par- 
tial realization that they find here and there 
in order to completely realize themselves. ) 
Thus, in the waking state and in the 
knowledge that we get of the real objects 
which surround us, an operation is con- 
tinually going on which is of quite the 
same nature as that of the dream. We 
perceive merely a sketch of the object. 
This sketch appeals to the complete mem- 
4^ory, and this complete memory, which by 
itself was either unconscious or simply in 
the thought state, profits by the occasion 
to come out. It is this kind of hallucina- 
tion, inserted and fitted into a real frame, 
that we perceive. It is a shorter process: 
it is very much quicker done than to see 
the thing itself. Besides, there are many 
interesting observations to be made upon 
the conduct and attitude of the memory 


images during this operation. It is not 
necessary to suppose that they are in our 
memory in a state of inert impressions. 
They are like th e steam iji^ a boiler, under 
mo re or less tensio n. 

At the moment when the perceived 
sketch calls them forth, it is as if they 
were then grouped in families according 
to their relationship and resemblances. 
There are experiments of Miinsterberg, 
earlier than those of Goldscheider and 
Miiller, which appear to me to confirm 
this hypothesis, although they were made 
for a very different purpose. "^Munster- 
berg wrote the words correctly; they were, 
besides, not common phrases; they were 
isolated words taken by chance. Here 
again the word was exposed during the 
time too short for it to be entirely per- 
ceived. Now, while the observer was 
looking at the written word, some one 
spoke in his ear another word of a very 
different significance. This is what hap- 
pened: the observer declared that he had 
seen a word which was not the written 
word, but which resembled it in its gen- 


eral form, and which besides recalled, by 
its meaning, the word which was spoken 
in his ear. For example, the word written 
was "tumult" and the word spoken was 
"railroad." The observer read "tunnel." 
The written word was "Trieste" and the 
spoken word was the German "Verzwei- 
flung" (despair). The observer read 
"Trost," which signifies "consolation." It 
is as if the word "railroad," pronounced 
in the ear, wakened, without our knowing 
it, hopes of conscious realization in a 
crowd of memories which have some rela- 
tionship with the idea of "railroad" (car, 
rail, trip, etc.). But this is only a hope, 
and the memory which succeeds in coming 
into consciousness is that which the actually 
present sensation had already begun to 
realize. / 

Such is the mechanism of true percep- 
tion, and such is that of the dream. In 
both cases there are, on one hand, real 
impressions made upon the organs of sense, 
and upon the other memories which en- 
case themselves in the impression and 
profit by its vitality to return again to life. 


But, then, what is the essential differ- 
ence between perceiving and dreaming? 
What is sleep? I do not ask, of course, 
how sleep can be explained physiolog- 
ically. That is a special question, and be- 
sides is far from being settled. I ask what 
is sleep psychologically; for our mind 
continues to exercise itself when we are 
asleep, and it exercises itself as we have 
just seen on elements analogous to those 
of waking, on sensations and memories; 
and also in an analogous manner combines 
them. Nevertheless we have on the one 
hand normal perception, and on the other 
the dream. What is the difference, I re- 
peat? What are the psychological charac- 
teristics of the sleeping state? 

We must distrust theories. There are 
a great many of them on this point. Some 
say that sleep consists in isolating oneself 
from the external world, in closing the 
senses to outside things. But we have 
shown that our senses continue to act dur- 
ing sleep, that they provide us with tjie 
outline, or at least the point ojf departure, 
of most of our dreams. Some say: "To 

^ 44 DREAMS 

go to sleep is to stop the action of the su- 
perior faculties of the mind," and they talk 
of a kind of momentary paralysis of the 
higher centers. I do not think that this is 
much more exact. In a dream we become 
no doubt indifferent to logic, but not in- 
capable of logic. There are dreams when 
we reason with correctness and even with 
subtlety. I might almost say, at the risk 
I of seeming paradoxical, that the mistake ol 
the dreamer is often in reasoning too much. 
He would avoid the absurdity if he would 
remain a simple spectator of the proces- 
sion of images which compose his dream. 
But when he strongly desires to explain 
it, his explanation, intended to bind to 
gether incoherent images, can be nothing 
more than a bizarre reasoning which 
verges upon absurdity. I recognize, in 
deed, that our superior intellectual facul 
ties are relaxed in sleep, that generally the 
logic of a dreamer is feeble enough and 
often resembles a mere parody of logic. 
But one might say as much of all of our 
faculties during sleep. It is then not by 
the abolition of reasoning, any more than 


by the closing of the senses, that we char- 
acterize dreaming. 

Something else is essential. We need 
something more than theories. We need 
an intimate contact with the facts. One 
must make the decisive experiment upon 
oneself. It is necessary that on coming out 
of a dream, since we cannot analyze our- 
selves in the dream itself, we should watch 
the transition from sleeping to waking, fol- 
low upon the transition as closely as pos- 
sible, and try to express by words what we 
experience in this passage. This is very 
difficult, but may be accomplished by 
forcing the attention. Permit, then, the 
writer to take an example from his own 
personal experience, and to tell of a recent 
dream as well as what was accomplished 
on coming out of the dream. 

Now the dreamer dreamed that he was 
speaking before an assembly, that he was 
making a political speech before a political 
assembly. Then in the midst of the audi- 
torium a murmur rose. The murmur aug- 
mented; it became a muttering. Then it 
became a roar, a frightful tumult, and 


finally there resounded from all parts 
timed to a uniform rhythm the cries, "Out! 
Out!" At that moment he wakened. A 
dog was baying in a neighboring garden, 
and with each one of his *Wow-wows" 
one of the cries of "Out! Out!" seemed to 
be identical. Well, here was the infinitesi- 
mal moment which it is necessary to seize. 
The waking ego, just reappearing, 
should turn to the dreaming ego, which 
is still there, and, during some instants at 
least, hold it without letting it go. "I 
have caught you at it! You thought it was a 
crowd shouting and it was a dog barking. 
Now, I shall not let go of you until you 
tell me just what you were doing!" To 
which the dreaming ego would answer, "I 
was doing nothing; and this is just where 
you and I differ from one another. You 
imagine that in order to hear a dog bark- 
ing, and to know that it is a dog that barks, 
you have nothing to do. That is a great 
mistake. You accomplish, without suspect- 
ing it, a considerable effort. You take 
your entire memory, all your accumulated 
experience, and you bring this formidable 


mass of memories to converge upon a sin- 
gle point, in such a way as to insert ex- 
actly in the sounds you heard that one of 
your memories which is the most capable 
of being adapted to it. Nay, you must ob- 
tain a perfect adherence, for between the 
memory that you evoke and the crude sen- 
sation that you perceive there must not be 
the least discrepancy; otherwise you would 
be just dreaming. This adjustment you can 
only obtain by an effort of the memory 
and an effort of the perception, just as the 
tailor who is trying on a new coat pulls 
together the pieces of cloth that he adjusts 
to the shape of your body in order to pin 
them. You exert, then, continually, every 
moment of the day, an enormous effort. 
Your life in a waking state is a life of la- 
bor, even when you think you are doing 
nothing, for at every minute you have to 
choose and every minute exclude. You 
choose among your sensations, since you 
reject from your consciousness a thousand 
subjective sensations which come back in 
the night when you sleep. You choose, and 
with extreme precision and delicacy, among 


your memories, since you reject all that do 
not exactly suit your present state. This 
choice which you continually accomplish, 
this adaptation, ceaselessly renewed, is the 
first and most essential condition of what is 
called common sense. But all this keeps 
you in a state of uninterrupted tension. 
You do not feel it at the moment, any more 
than you feel the pressure of the atmos- 
phere, but it fatigues you in the long run. 
Common sense is very fatiguing. 

"So, I repeat, I differ from you pre- 
cisely in that I do nothing. The effort 
that you give without cessation I simply 
abstain from giving. In place of attach- 
ing myself to life, I detach myself from it. 
Everything has become indifferent to me. 
I have become disinterested in everything. 
To sleep is to become disinterested. One 
sleeps to the exact extent to which he be- 
comes disinterested. A mother who sleeps 
by the side of her child will not stir at the 
sound of thunder, but the sigh of the child 
will wake her. Does she really sleep in 
regard to her child? We do not sleep in 
regard to what continues to interest us. 


"You ask me what it is that I do when I 
dream? I will tell you what you do when 
you are awake. You take me, the me of 
dreams, me the totality of your past, and 
you force me, by making me smaller and 
smaller, to fit into the little circle that you 
trace around your present action. That is 
what it is to be awake. That is what it is to 
live the normal psychical life. It is to bat- 
tle. It is to will. As for the dream, have 
you really any need that I should explain 
it? It is the state into which you naturally 
fall when you let yourself ^o, when you no 
longer have the power to concentrate your- 
self upon a single point, when you have 
ceased to will. What needs much more to 
be explained is the marvelous mechanism 
by which at any moment your will obtains 
instantly, and almost unconsciously, the con- 
centration of all that you have within you 
upon one and the same point, the point that 
interests you. But to explain this is the 
task of normal psychology, of the psychol- 
ogy of waking, for willing and waking are 
one and the same thing." 

This is what the dreaming ego would say. 


And it would tell us a great many other 
things still if we could let it talk freely. But 
let us sum up briefly the essential difference 
which separates a dream from the waking 
state. In the dream the same faculties are 
exercised as during waking, but they are 
in a state of tension in the one case, and of 
relaxation in the other. The dream con- 
sists of the entire mental life minus the ten- 
sion, the effort and the bodily movement. 
We perceive still, we remember still, we 
reason still. All this can abound in the 
dream; for abundance, in the domain of the 
mind, does not mean effort. What requires 
an effort is the precision of adjustment. To 
connect the sound of a barking dog with 
the memory of a crowd that murmurs and 
shouts requires no effort. But in order that 
this sound should be perceived as the bark- 
ing of a dog, a positive effort must be made. 
It is this force that the dreamer lacks. It 
is by that, and by that alone, that he is dis- 
tinguished from the waking man. 

From this essential difference can be 
drawn a great many others. We can come 
to understand the chief characteristics of 


the dream. But I can only outline the 
scheme of this study. It depends especially 
upon three points, which are: the incoher- 
ence of dreams, the abolition of the sense 
of duration that often appears to be mani- 
fested in dreams, and, finally, the order in 
which the memories present themselves to 
the dreamer, contending for the sensations 
present where they are to be embodied. 

The incoherence of the dream seems to 
me easy enough to explain. As it is charac- 
teristic of the dream not to demand a com- 
plete adjustment between the memory image 
and the sensation, but, on the contrary, to 
allow some play between them, very differ- 
ent memories can suit the same sensation. 
For example, there may be in the field of 
vision a green spot with white points. This 
might be a lawn spangled with white 
flowers. It might be a billiard-table with 
its balls. It might be a host of other things 
besides. These different memory images, 
all capable of utilizing the same sensation, 
chase after it. Sometimes they attain it, one 
after the other. And so the lawn becomes 
a billiard-table, and we watch these extraor- 


dinary transformations. Often it is at the 
same time, and altogether that these mem- 
ory images join the sensation, and then the 
lawn will be a billiard-table. From this 
come those absurd dreams where an object 
remains as it is and at the same time be- 
comes something else. As I have just said, 
the mind, confronted by these absurd vi- 
sions, seeks an explanation and often there- 
by aggravates the incoherence. 

As for the abolition of the sense of time 
in many of our dreams, that is another ef- 
fect of the same cause. In a few seconds a 
dream can present to us a series of events 
which will occupy, in the waking state, en- 
tire days. You know the example cited by 
M. Maury: it has become classic, and 
although it has been contested of late, I 
regard it as probable, because of the great 
number of analogous observations that I 
found scattered through the literature 
of dreams. But this precipitation of the 
images is not at all mysterious. When we 
are awake we live a life in common with 
our fellows. Our attention to this external 
and social life is the great regulator of the 


succession of our internal states. It is like 
the balance wheel of a watch, which mod- 
erates and cuts into regular sections the un- 
divided, almost instantaneous tension of the 
spring. It is this balance wheel which is 
lacking in the dream. Acceleration is no 
more than abundance a sign of force in the 
domain of the mind. It is, I repeat, the 
precision of adjustment that requires effort, 
and this is exactly what the dreamer lacks. 
He is no longer capable of that attention to 
life which is necessary in order that the in- 
ner may be regulated by the outer, and that 
the internal duration fit exactly into the 
general duration of things. 

It remains now to explain how the pe- 
culiar relaxation of the mind in the dream 
accounts for the preference given by the 
dreamer to one memory image rather than 
others, equally capable of being inserted 
into the actual sensations. There is a cur- 
rent prejudice to the effect that we dream 
mostly about the events which have espe- 
cially preoccupied us during the day. This 
is sometimes true. But when the psycholog- 
ical life of the waking state thus pro- 


longs itself into sleep, it is because_we 
hardly^leep. A sleep filled with dreams 
of this kind would be a sleep from which 
we come out quite fatigued. In normal 
sleep our dreams concern themselves rather, 
other things being equal, with the thoughts 
which we have passed through rapidly or 
upon objects which we have perceived 
almost without paying attention to them. 
If we dream about events of the same day, 
it is the most insignificant facts, and not the 
most important, which have the best chance 
of reappearing. 

I agree entirely on this point with the 
observation of W. Robert, of Delage and of 
Freud. I was in the street, I was waiting 
for a street-car, I stood beside the track and 
did not run the least risk. But if, at the 
moment when the street-car passed, the idea 
of possible danger had crossed my mind or 
even if my body had instinctively recoiled 
without my having been conscious of feel- 
ing any fear, I might dream that night that 
the car had run over my body. I watch 
at the bedside of an invalid whose condi- 
tion is hopeless. If at any moment, per- 


haps without even being aware of it, I had 
hoped against hope, I might dream that the 
invalid was cured. I should dream of the 
cure, in any case, more probably than that 
I should dream of the disease. In short, 
the events which reappear by preference 
in the dream are those of which we have 
thought most distractedly. What is there 
astonishing about that? The ego of the 
dream is an ego that is relaxed; the mem- 
ories which it gathers most readily are th e 
memories of relaxation and^_distxaclio_n, 
thos e_wliidi do not bear the mark of effort. 
It is true that in very profound slumber 
the law that regulates the reappearance of 
memories may be very different. We know 
almost nothing of this profound slumber. 
The dreams which fill it are, as a general 
rule, the dreams which we forget. Some- 
times, nevertheless, we recover something 
of them. And then it is a very peculiar 
feeling, strange, indescribable, that we ex- 
perience. It seems to us that we have re- 
turned from afar in space and afar in time. 
These are doubtless very old scenes, scenes 
of youth or infancy that we live over then 


in all their details, with a mood which col- 
ors them with that fresh sensation of in- 
fancy and youth that we seek vainly to re- 
vive when awake. 

It is upon this profound slumber that 
psychology ought to direct its efforts, not 
only to study the mechanism of unconscious 
memory, but to examine the more mysteri- 
ous phenomena which are raised by "psy- 
chical research." I do not dare express an 
opinion upon phenomena of this class, but 
I cannot avoid attaching some importance to 
the observations gathered by so rigorous a 
method and with such indefatigable zeal 
by the Society for Psychical Research. If 
telepathy influences our dreams, it is quite 
likely that in this profound slumber it 
would have the greatest chance to manifest 
itself. But I repeat, I cannot express an 
opinion upon this point. I have gone for- 
ward with you as far as I can; I stop upon 
the threshold of the mystery. To explore 
the most secret depths of the unconscious, 
to labor in what I have just called the sub- 
soil of consciousness, that will be the prin- 
cipal task of psychology in the century 


which is opening. I do not doubt that won- 
derful discoveries await it there, as impor- 
tant perhaps as have been in the preceding 
centuries the discoveries of the physical 
and natural sciences. That at least is the 
promise which I make for it, that is the 
wish that in closing I have for it 

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